Feb 05

Meaning in Retirement: “The Intern”

In Nancy Meyers‘s The Intern we see that “Experience never gets old,” as goes the tagline, and that there can still be work-related meaning in retirement.

Robert De Niro plays Ben, a senior widower who seeks an internship at a fashion website company managed by Jules (Anne Hathaway). Although bringing on a 70-year-old intern is not an idea she’s personally endorsed, it all works out in the end.

As reviews have pointed out, the trailer basically tells you the whole story:

It’s an enjoyable piece of fluff perfectly suitable for a winter rental. A few review excerpts:

Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle: “The artistry of ‘The Intern’ is that Meyers figures out how to make the inevitable interesting, or at least interesting enough. We are made to feel, almost by instinct, without really being told, that Ben has things to teach Jules, and we’re also made to care that Jules learns them.”

James Rocchi, The Wrap: “Considering the movie’s fortune-cookie-style ‘insights’ that old and young have much to learn from each other, it’s only appropriate that De Niro and Hathaway’s charms, and those alone, comprise the saving graces of ‘The Intern’.”

Tom Long, Detroit News: “…[Meyers] squarely faces the potential abyss of retirement that’s currently confronting tens of millions of Americans, the possible sense of empty uselessness, the loss of purpose and function.”

It’s this last point that most interested me—the film’s setup that Ben realizes he’s missing something in life and then pulls himself out of “the potential abyss” by interning. However, as these types of opportunities for finding meaning in retirement aren’t something I’ve heard about before, I had to wonder how realistic this was.

Johnny Brayson, Bustle: “…As long as an internship doesn’t offer any kind of age restriction or college requirement, you can apply regardless of how old you are. A lot of companies still prefer to go with more traditional, 21-year-old interns, but more and more are accepting older people as a viable alternative. Especially if they happen to be Robert De Niro.”

There’s always still volunteerism as a potentially fulfilling option, which brings such benefits as improving one’s mental health, reducing social isolation, in addition to various other things specific to your own needs.

Nov 15

“Silver Linings Playbook”: The Mental Health Issues

Silver Linings Playbook is based on Matthew Quick‘s 2008 novel and was adapted for the screen and directed by David O. Russell. The official movie description:

Life doesn’t always go according to plan. Pat Solatano (Bradley Cooper) has lost everything — his house, his job, and his wife. He now finds himself living back with his mother (Jacki Weaver) and father (Robert DeNiro) after spending eight months in a state institution on a plea bargain. Pat is determined to rebuild his life, remain positive and reunite with his wife, despite the challenging circumstances of their separation. All Pat’s parents want is for him to get back on his feet-and to share their family’s obsession with the Philadelphia Eagles football team. When Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a mysterious girl with problems of her own, things get complicated. Tiffany offers to help Pat reconnect with his wife, but only if he’ll do something very important for her in return. As their deal plays out, an unexpected bond begins to form between them, and silver linings appear in both of their lives.

What kind of mental health issues are shown? Pat’s diagnosis is bipolar disorder. Others around him exhibit different types of overt issues. Grief, OCD, codependency, and sports mania are just a few that inhabit family members and friends.

How Well Are the Mental Health Issues Portrayed in Silver Linings Playbook?

James BerardinelliReelViews: “…If there’s a criticism to be leveled at Silver Linings Playbook, it’s that the mental illness elements recede into the background during the final half-hour to allow things to progress as a more conventional romantic comedy.”

Justin ChangVariety: “While the pic’s willingness to make light of Pat’s disorder may give some pause (at one point, he and Tiffany bond over which meds they have and haven’t taken), it doesn’t soft-pedal his journey to rock-bottom, and Russell’s technique so bristlingly evokes the character’s mental state that one feels sympathetically swept up in his experience rather than positioned outside it.”

What about Pat’s therapist? As it turns out, there’s very little of him (played by Anupam Kher) in the film.

Possible spoiler coming: Pat’s (and the audience’s) very first meeting of Patel immediately follows Pat’s violent response to hearing “My Cherie Amour” in the not-private waiting room. Pat confronts Patel about allowing to be played what is in fact his personal known-to-be-rage-triggering song, and the not-sensible, not-wise shrink admits he purposely did it in order to “test” him.

Not cool, in my humble clinical opinion.

Not a spoiler: Whereas on the more positive side, Dr. Patel does continually encourage Pat to make healthier choices…

Another spoiler alert, sparing you many of the details: …Patel’s not the best at his own choices. The eventual “dysfunctional” twist regarding this doc occurs outside the therapy office and is just one more in a never-ending string of movie depictions of unacceptable therapist boundaries that are never explained to the audience as such.

Dec 27

“Everybody’s Fine” (Or Not) for the Holidays

Another movie for holiday viewing, Everybody’s Fine (2009), may have missed a larger audience due to less-than-great critical reviews. It actually fared much better with actual audiences and is worth seeing, in my opinion.

Robert De Niro leads the Everybody’s Fine cast as Frank Goode, a recent widower who’s retired from his factory job where he coated telephone wires; the chemicals involved contributed to the development of a chronic illness. His four adult kids live in various locations across the country. Although he’d been expecting them to visit him at the holiday, each cancels.

Despite his doctor’s advice against traveling, Frank then “…embarks on an impromptu road trip to reconnect with each of his grown children only to discover that their lives are far from picture perfect.” (Metacritic)

Frank’s first stop is New York City, where he expects to find his son the artist. But he’s nowhere to be found, and Frank has to move on. This mystery pervades the subsequent interactions with each of his other kids.

He finds out from his two daughters that one of the main gaps in the relationships between him and them had to do with his specific parental role when they were growing up. Some relevant quotes:

Amy (Kate Beckinsale) to Frank: I tell you the good news and spare you the bad. Isn’t that what mom used to do for you when we were kids?


Rosie (Drew Barrymore): We could just talk to mom.

Frank: Oh, but you couldn’t just talk to me?

Rosie: Well she was a good listener, you were a good talker.

Frank: Well so that’s good, we made a good team.

Various other revelations emerge over the course of this movie, not all of them pleasant, but it’s interesting to see how they occur within the specific family dynamics.

Selected Reviews of Everybody’s Fine

Roger Ebert: “All that could redeem this thoroughly foreseeable unfolding would be colorful characters and good acting. ‘Everybody’s Fine’ comes close, but not close enough.”

Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian: “This is a sweet-natured film on the saccharine borderline, but with interesting moments; it does not deserve the cold critical response it has so far been given in the US, and the 66-year-old De Niro gives what, for my money, is his first decent, watchable performance in quite a while.”

Kirk Honeycutt, Hollywood Reporter: “‘Everybody’s Fine’ glides along a surface of complete inauthenticity. Characters have no depth and all emotions get ladled on via a syrupy score and Robert De Niro’s strenuous acting. It’s a no-go almost from the start.”